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7 cool ways to commemorate Earth Day with kids in 2021

From tackling nature scavenger hunts to growing plants from seeds, here are fun ideas for the whole family.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Every day should be Earth Day, but there’s one special day a year — April 22 — that we call out as an annual reminder to take better care of our planet. It’s the only home we have.

It took a heavily polluted river catching on fire in 1969 to galvanize the American public into action. Nearly 20 million people — 10 percent of the country’s population — took part in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

Earth Day has grown into the world’s biggest civic event, celebrated by a billion people in more than 190 countries, according to Earth Day Network. What are some activities for Earth Day? Here are free Earth Day activities you can do with your family or your pod to encourage everyone to protect the Earth.

Virtual Earth Day 2021 activities

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Restore our Earth,” and it’s all about reducing our environmental footprint and fixing the damage we’ve already done. Earth Day Network is organizing a three-day event (April 20-22) with virtual workshops, panel discussions and special performances.

President Joe Biden invited 40 world leaders to a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate, which will be livestreamed for public viewing.

Earth Day activities for preschool

Even preschoolers can start learning environmentally friendly habits. Set up a sorting station with three containers: trash, compost and recycling. After a meal, invite kids to sort their things into the correct category. Where do milk cartons go? How about banana peels? Talk about what is recyclable and what is compostable, and how they can be reused. Kids can learn about keeping stuff out of the landfill and also practice sorting skills and fine motor skills.

Challenge kids to a nature scavenger hunt

The best way to build appreciation for nature is getting out there and experiencing it. All you need for an outdoor scavenger hunt is paper, pencil and a clipboard, easy peasy. Leave room for kids to sketch their findings if they’d like. Bonus: Enjoying nature comes with built-in social distancing.

Here are a dozen ideas for your scavenger hunt:

  • three kinds of leaves
  • a flower
  • a spider web
  • a smooth rock
  • something to climb
  • a seed
  • moss
  • a feather
  • a squirrel
  • something you can eat
  • something that smells good, and
  • something blue

If you’re sheltering in place, you can still go on an eco-friendly virtual field trip. Visit a Finnish forest or explore the Arctic without hopping on a flight (or off your couch).

Create a miniature world

Making a diorama or shadowbox is the perfect project for kids who love to tell stories. They can dream up a magical tiny world, all contained in a little box.

Start with a shoebox-sized container and found natural objects. Scout your backyard or go on a nature walk to source your materials. They might be dried leaves, twigs or round stones, and you can add tiny toys to your scene.

If you want to make it a more permanent assemblage, use glue or tape to keep things in place. Otherwise, feel free to “recycle” the natural elements back into the world in a week or so. The fun is in creating and building something new!

Child recycles plastic water bottles.
There are so many practical ways to get kids of all ages excited about protecting the planet.Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

Earth Day activities for students

Growing plants from seeds is one of the rewarding Earth Day projects for students. It’s super satisfying to nurture something you made and watch it grow. (Amirite, parents?)

Peas are unfussy to grow from seed and yield tasty results. Or use wheat grass seeds, which germinate so fast that the science lesson will come to life before you know it. Put the kids in charge of watering and keep a ruler on hand to track growth. Record changes on an observation sheet, and make sure there’s room to sketch a picture.

Shhh, don’t tell them it’s educational: your students are really practicing science skills, like making observations, measuring and journaling.

Earth Day activities at home

Upcycle a bottle into a colorful vase to dress up your spring table. Rip or cut scraps of tissue into little pieces, and paint Mod Podge over it to adhere it to a glass bottle. Baby food jars or jam jars with the labels removed are the perfect size for a tealight holder or a small vase.

Earth Day activities for adults

PIck up trash while you go on a walk or jog, and you can help the Earth while getting some fresh air. Win-win! A litter cleanup is a great way to involve kids in keeping their neighborhood spiffy, but you’ll definitely want adults supervising in case they run into broken glass or other dangerous materials. Bring garbage bags, gloves and hand sanitizer, and you are directly making a difference.

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